Are you a writer that commits and finishes?

There are many, many writers in the world but only a small percentage make a commitment and go on to finish their project. What type of writer are you?

We’re often told how many people write and submit books to agents and publishers each year – it’s a lot. But I bet there’s a whole heap more who start writing and never reach the end. People find it much easier to start than they do to go on and finish.
I’ve been talking about mindset quite a lot recently, from having confidence in your work to getting through those lonely hours of writing without tangible rewards. I think that the high number of non-finishers comes down to a couple of things.

Two things

First, writing is extremely hard. You need a little talent and a lot of patience. The former reminds you that you have the potential to produce good work and, more importantly, to improve. The latter is what gets you through the knocks and the inevitable self-doubt.

But by far the most significant thing you need if you’re to start, persevere with and complete a significant writing project is commitment. You need a certain mindset, an approach to work whereby whatever happens, you’re determined to see it through.

No return

It’s easy for me to say these things when I’m sat here with a finished novel to my name. I appreciate that, I really do. But don’t think that there weren’t times (and plenty of them) when I considered throwing in the towel and trying something else.

The problem was I couldn’t give up. Despite the challenges, from writer’s block to simultaneously managing a full-time job, I felt I’d made a commitment and just had to keep going until the bitter end.

As such, my lapses were frequent but fleeting. When they came, I thought about my commitment and pushed on.

Just do it

Having said all this, I can’t really help you any further with making your commitment. The truth is, if you’re like most writers, your writing will have to mould itself around the rest of your life. Work, bills and relationships will have to come first. That’s perfectly fine.

But if you want to write – if you want to give it a serious go – do make a commitment. Think about why you want to write. Then set a goal. Then set a timescale. You might not match or meet those expectations, but don’t give up until you’ve honoured what you set out to do.

Finishing a writing project is very rewarding. Be committed and be a finisher. It’s absolutely worth it in the end.

13 Comments 8 March 2011 Reply

Inspiring points, Iain. Commitment to writing (and just about every other area of life) is something that’s hard to come by. It’s good to have reminders like this to sign back up and run hard again. Thanks! 8 March 2011 Reply

Thank you and no problem! 8 March 2011 Reply

One of the challenges I can see is finding the motivation to pick up the project again once you’ve finished it for the first time in order to do an edit – it seems to require a slightly different mindset again, when a lot of the initial impetus has gone. (This isn’t for me but someone who was asking me about it – I don’t think I’ll ever write a novel!) Any thoughts on that? 8 March 2011 Reply

Hi Joanna – hope you’re well!
Goodness me, do I know about the challenge of picking up again once you think you’ve finished. My novel has gone through three major edits. And by that I mean I’ve theoretically ‘finished’ twice and then had to go on and make significant amends. I’m not complaining though, because in each case it was the right thing to do, and I have a much better book as a result.

But I think it was that same commitment that forced me to retake the plunge each time. I’ve been thinking about your question and I can’t separate that initial commitment from the decisions to go back and edit. My motivation was based on the same principles: I really wanted it, you know?

I’d be interested to know what others think – it’s a great point you make.

Anonymous 8 March 2011 Reply

Yes, writing is extremely hard. This is something I’m trying to come to terms with or investigate further, particularly happiness as a writer.
Making a concrete commitment to yourself, or perhaps a writing partner, really does help.

Going back to my comment on Twitter, something I need help with is making too many commitments, especially free ones. I’m finding it hard to figure out which ones would be best for me. Should I try to focus on one area or style of writing, or should I diversify a bit.

Thanks for this post, Iain. 8 March 2011 Reply

I’ve thought about this and what I’m about to write is probably a note to self (like much of what I post on this site, actually). I think you might need to start saying no to a few things. It’s really tough, especially if all your commitments are fun to do, but you risk spreading yourself too thin. I actually think *honesty splash coming* I’m doing that myself at the moment. Broomeshtick has proved pretty popular, but I’m suddenly thinking, why don’t I post that stuff here on Write for Your Life? I mean, it’s all me, so why not unify the sites. this is something I’m thinking of doing, but I’ve effectively been running two websites instead of one. A bit daft when you say it out loud.
So yes, change something or start saying no, that’s my advice!

Anonymous 10 March 2011 Reply

Thanks for the advice. Saying no is something I trying to learn how to do.
About the different sites, does your Broomeshtick site drive traffic to this site since it’s a different platform? Doesn’t each site attract a different audience? 8 March 2011 Reply

This is great, hand in hand with your latest video I just watched. Well said. (as always) 8 March 2011 Reply

Yes, I’m trying to link each post in a roundabout way – glad you noticed! 12 March 2011 Reply

Thank you for creating this site, Iain. It’s inspiring me to just sit down and write that book I’ve always wanted to write. And now I have to just do it. 13 March 2011 Reply

No problem and so pleased to hear you’ve found it useful. Starting is always hard, but if you get going, you never know where it might lead – good luck!

Anonymous 1 January 2013 Reply

[…] Well, you can, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes a piece of writing, no matter how long it might be, just isn’t working. There’s not a lot that you can do but put your manuscript to one side and try something different. There is no shame in that. All writers abandon projects. Just make sure that you start something else. […]

Anonymous 23 January 2013 Reply

[…] with your productivity. For writers, there is often a battle to get started, but the keeping going, that’s also tough, what with all those pesky distractions. This year, I’m trying a new appraoch to writing […]

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